If you haven’t had the pleasure of biting into some crispy, fried blue catfish, you are truly missing out. They’re easy to catch, easy to clean, and easy to cook. What’s more, they’re invasive. Just about everything alive in the Chesapeake Bay will be better off each time you enjoy dining on these fish. It is illegal to throw them back, so why not reap the rewards of your hard-earned catch? 


Here’s a great way to get your blue catfish out of the cooler and onto the dinner table in just a few easy steps.


Fileting the Fish

First and foremost, start by grabbing a very sharp filet knife. A well-edged blade will make this process much easier. Rinse any dirt or grime from the fish and place it on a flat surface of your choice. 


Catfish have a slightly different bone structure than other commonly fileted species like perch, crappie, and bass, so the initial cut must be made at a different angle.


Look and feel for the line of rib bones that run at a diagonal towards the head, starting from the pelvic fin and continuing up toward the top of the fish. Line your knife up just outside of the rib cage, and slice deep into the fish until the blade hits the back bone. 


Now, turn the knife so that it lays flat against the spine, and cut all the way down to the tail to separate the filet from the body. 


All that’s left to do is remove the skin. With the filet facing meat side up, place your knife at the tail end and turn the blade about 45 degrees counterclockwise. Slice into the flesh without going through the skin, then angle the knife so that it’s flat against your working surface. Holding the tail end down with one hand, slide your knife up the filet until the meat comes apart from the skin.


Flip the fish over and repeat the same process on the other side. You will then have two boneless, skinless filets ready for the kitchen. 


Frying the Filets

Rinse any leftover blood off of your filets, and pat them dry with a paper towel. Set them aside on a plate.


Grab a bowl and add one (1) cup of cornmeal. To your taste, dump in some Old Bay seasoning and combine. Cover both sides of each filet with the mixture.


In a pan, pour enough canola or vegetable oil to reach about a half-inch deep. Begin heating the oil on medium. You’ll know it’s ready for frying when you splash a few drops of water into the oil and it sizzles and pops. 


Carefully place the fish into the pan and cook until golden crispy, about three (3) minutes per side (time may vary due to bigger or smaller filets). The meat should be opaque white, firm, and mild tasting. Squeeze on some lemon juice or drizzle with some hot sauce and enjoy.


What was once an invasive fish swimming in the Bay or its tributaries, decimating populations of native species, is now a delicious meal. 

Looking for a place to fish?

Follow Maryland’s Catfish Trail to catch your favorite new ingredient. The Trail will lead you to some of the best places to catch these invasive critters and connect you with more info on Catfish including recipes, fishing charters, tournaments and more.